Diversion: Keeping Your Record Clean

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A diversion can mean entertainment or amusement for many people. To others it can mean a change of course. In the criminal justice system, diversion can mean a change of course out of the system. Diversion means a defendant agrees to a course of conduct for a specific period of time, pays some fees and court costs, and avoids a trial and a possible criminal or traffic record.

Diversion does not mean that shoplifters and drunk drivers all over the country are going unpunished and having their records wiped clean. Diversion is not available everywhere, and it’s not easy to get where it is available. The defendant must apply to the District Attorney, County Attorney, City Prosecutor, or similar government legal officer with the authority to prosecute crimes and traffic offenses. That officer has complete discretion to approve or deny the application.

Diversion is often only available to first offenders, and it usually requires payment of significant fees. It requires the defendant to sign a strict agreement and follow it to the letter. The agreement usually includes an admission of the facts on which the original charges were based. If the defendant fails to fulfill all the conditions of the agreement, the original charges will be reinstated. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the charges are dropped, and the record remains clean.

New York and Kansas have very different demographics, but they both have of diversion programs. New York’s are limited to traffic cases and require the defendant to attend traffic school. Kansas’s programs include both criminal and traffic offenses.

A good New York example is the Orleans County Traffic Diversion Program. It is not available if the offense is speeding 30 mph or more over the limit, involves alcohol or drug impairment, and other serious traffic offenses. The Orleans County District Attorney’s office has complete discretion to deny applications for the program, even if the offense is not disqualifying. The defendant must not have been convicted of another offense within 18 months, must have a valid license and insurance, and must pay a fee of $200.00. If the District Attorney’s office approves the application, the defendant must then complete a defensive driving course at an additional cost.

A good example of a Kansas traffic diversion program can be found at the Allen County Attorney’s Office, which allows diversion for a variety of offenses as long as the defendant does not have more than three tickets in the past five years. Even DUI offenders are eligible, although they must not have any prior DUI offenses. The County Attorney’s website includes a downloadable diversion application and instructions, but the fee is not disclosed unless the office accepts the application and approves the diversion. If the application is accepted, the defendant then signs the agreement and pays the required fee.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office has both criminal and traffic diversion programs. The traffic program does not include DUI offenses and has additional restrictions; a detailed list of eligible offenses is included. Douglas County has separate criminal diversion programs for adult and juvenile defendants, but neither are eligible if the offenses are serious, or if the defendant has a prior record or a prior diversion.

In Douglas County, for both the traffic and criminal programs, fees and court costs must be paid with the application. Part of the fee is non-refundable if the application is denied.

For an example of similar traffic and criminal programs at the city level, check out the City of Newton Prosecutor’s Office information.

If you’ve been charged with a minor crime or a traffic offense and want to avoid a record, you can talk to the D.A. or prosecutor and ask if there is a diversion program you can apply for. To check out the possibilities ahead of time, go to CourtReference and select your state, select the Self Help and Legal Research category, scroll down to your county, and look for links to diversion programs. If you qualify for the program, if the prosecutor approves your application, and if you complete the program, you can keep your record clean.

2 thoughts on “Diversion: Keeping Your Record Clean

  1. Pancho

    I suspect that some Kansas municipalities have used the diversion program as a cash cow. In the City of Meade in Dodge County, for instance, I found that the diversion fee includes egregious court costs, plus the fee for the fine, plus $250. I couldn’t find any other jurisdiction with as high a fee.

    This seems to be the modern version of the “speed trap,” where tickets of questionable merit are written for the purposes of raising substantial money by taking it out of the pockets of those who live elsewhere.

  2. Cleo

    An area of Texas highway 183 known as Mustang Ridge has a posted speed limit of 60 mph while paralleling Texas tollway 130 with a speed limit of 85 mph. The toll road is less than 50 yards away from the 183 side road. The area is rural, there no edifices other than the police station and no safety issues are apparent. On any given day one may observe traffic keeping pace with the toll road, so infractions seem arbitrary. This would seem to constitute a speed trap.


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